Our experience at the vocation fair of World Youth Day 2019, Panama
From January 22-25, 2019, five RSCJ from the United States – Canada and Mexico Provinces (Mary Finlayson, Maricruz Trigueros, Conny Mateos, Lisa Buscher, Celia Salinas) participated in the vocation fair of World Youth Day. The theme for this year was “Follow Me.” We prepared a booth in which we shared with youth who we are and where we are in mission. We believe that our charism and internationality are gifts and are very attractive to youth and we were happy to share them!
The Earth/Love logo (the Open Heart logo forming the “O”) and the image of the Open Heart surrounded by the countries where RSCJ serve were the main images with which we decorated our booth. We also included many pictures of RSCJ in community and mission around the globe.
We shared pamphlets, postcards, pens, magnets and pins all with our logos. We invited youth to “Put your prayer in the Heart of Jesus” by writing an intention and placing it in a large heart at the front of our booth. Now, we have many bags of intentions to pray for! But by far the most popular attraction at our booth was our Sacred Heart tattoos.
Each day the lines of young pilgrims grew longer as they came to get ‘tattooed’ or marked with the Heart of Jesus. This, along with the many thousands who stopped to put intentions in the Heart, gave us a wonderful opportunity to talk with youth about the Open Heart of Jesus and remind them that “Love is Our Mission” is not just for RSCJ, but for all believers. We also engaged visitors with the question, “Where are you from?” When they found their country on the large banner. They were often very moved. And, if they didn’t find their country on our Open Heart banner, they asked, “Why are you not there?” (especially the Panamanians) and we continued the dialogue. If they seemed interested, we invited them to “Stay Connected to the Heart,” to find out about volunteer possibilities, learn more about the Society or consider a vocation as a religious.
Being at the fair every day, engaging and talking with thousands of youth (over 700,000 youth at WYD), drew us into the spirit of joy and hope. It was so moving to meet young men and women who already knew RSCJ, resonated strongly with our charism or simply came from countries where RSCJ are or were (like Nicaragua). There was no lack of photos, songs, memories of RSCJ or our institutions and little gifts ... always shared with love. One young person, with tear-filled eyes, explained how an RSCJ in Cuba had marked his life forever. The many youth and older adults from Venezuela begged for prayers for their people.
Some of us visited the Santa Maria la Antigua site to hear the opening message from Pope Francis. What moved us deeply was to see the passion, enthusiasm and devotion of the young people. Pope Francis recognized in the young women and men was their “capacity to walk” because once one begins walking, there is no more fear. In the same way, he affirmed that “the many differences do not keep us from meeting and having a good time together ... This is possible because we know that there is something that unites us, Someone who makes us sisters and brothers.”
These four days of sharing with thousands of young people who visited us in the vocation fair ensure that many now know us and others have left with hope that one day their country will appear in the RSCJ country logo. This vocation ministry opportunity grew into a strong experience of mission: loving young people and discovering and manifesting the Love of the Heart of Jesus together. We thank the many donors who made our presence at World Youth Day possible and the International Vocation Commission for their support in strengthening the bonds among our Provinces and our living as One Body, discovering and manifesting the Love of the Heart of Jesus together with youth!